Smartphone apps such as MovieReading, Earcatch, Greta and Starks, Audible Magic and Actiview synchronise audio description with original filmed soundtrack.
These apps currently aren't available in the UK, RNIB is working with the cinema industry to secure support to pilot these apps in UK cinemas. Internationally, most apps are used in cinemas for now, but a few like Earcatch are available to use while watching TV. Most of these are available on both Android and iOS devices.
RNIB has worked with the TV and film industry to trial audio description apps in the UK. The overall response to the trials with the Moviereading app were positive with most participants expressing a strong interest in using apps to receive audio description in this way.
RNIB launched a trial of the MovieReading app in the UK. The aim of this user trial was to gather views and feedback on the use of an app-based audio description delivery system. Just under 200 audio description users participated in the trial, which was part of a wider project to look at the various aspects of introducing this type of service into the wider market. The trial was carried out in partnership with the Universal Media Access Team and their existing app, MovieReading. This app is currently available to cinema goers in Italy.
Following the app trial, producers of the BAFTA nominated British documentary Notes on Blindness used the MovieReading Audio Description App to provide audio description for the film. Archer's Mark Productions used the app to deliver a range of audio tracks specially designed for people with sight loss. There was a standard audio description track, a track read by actor Stephen Mangan and an enhanced soundtrack which used sound design and enhanced effects to make it fully accessible. Users were free to choose which track they wanted to listen to while watching the film or could switch between tracks if they wanted.
Thirty eight blind and partially sighted people who regularly use audio description in cinemas joined the test screening of Beauty and the Beast at the Odeon Cinema in Haymarket, London in August 2017.
The objective was to try the Moviereading audio description app and find out what it was like to experience using it in the cinema. Overall, feedback was highly positive and most agreed that if such a service was made available in cinemas, they would use it.
Detailed feedback is available in our report: Audio description in UK Cinemas (Word, 130KB)
RNIB is currently discussing the potential of launching a UK-wide Cinema Pilot of the app with the UK Film Industry. Details of this pilot will be made available as soon as we have confirmation from our industry partners.